The Jack Russell terrier is the most popular terrier breed in the UK, and these petite, plucky little dogs have big personalities inside of their small frames! People often make the mistake of thinking that small dogs are easier to care for or less hassle than larger breeds, but while it is true that a smaller dog can live within a smaller home, aside from this, the Jack Russell is best viewed as a big dog in a small body, and treated accordingly!
Historically used for working as a ratter and to pursue rodents and other prey into burrows, the Jack Russell is lively, hardworking and tenacious. Even today, when the vast majority of Jack Russell terriers in the UK are kept as pets, the Jack Russell retains their strong working instincts, and will still display a lot of these traits within the domestic home.
While Jack Russells are among the most individual of dogs and no two are exactly the same in terms of their temperament and behaviour, there are nevertheless certain universal personality traits that apply to virtually all Jack Russells, which we will look at in more detail within this article.
Like all terriers, the Jack Russell was originally bred and highly valued for their abilities as a ratter and hunter, which helped to keep the rodent population under control. This is both an inherent trait of the Jack Russell and one that has been enhanced with selective breeding, and Jack Russells will soon spot or scent out the presence of small rodents or other wildlife, and hunt it down mercilessly, ending with a quick kill.
This can be problematic within the domestic environment if your dog is apt to burrow or take off after wildlife, and may mean that they need to be muzzled when off the lead for the protection of other animals. Their strong prey drive also often manifests as a propensity to burrow or dig, which can also become a problem!
Jack Russells are real livewires, which like to keep busy and be on the move. They need lots of exercise and time to play, and will not thrive within a sedentary lifestyle. Despite their small size, they have a brisk walking pace and lots of endurance, and make for excellent rambling and hiking partners too.
They like lots of variety in terms of their walks and exercise, with plenty of games, interactive play, and lots of chances to go outside.
Jack Russells are intelligent and tenacious little dogs that can think several steps ahead, and plan their actions accordingly. This high intelligence and quick reactions can mean that the Jack Russell can learn a whole range of commands that often, makes them a good pick for canine sports.
However, the bored Jack Russell whose mind is idle will soon become frustrated and destructive in their quest for something to do! It is important to nurture the Jack Russell’s need for mental stimulation as well as physical activity, in order to keep the dog calm and happy, and prevent them from manifesting with behavioural problems.
The Jack Russell is not necessarily the best choice of pet for the first time dog owner, as they require a competent and experienced trainer and handler who is well versed in canine behaviour and able to adapt and tailor their training protocols to match the dog.
If poorly trained or managed, or allowed to get the upper hand, the Jack Russell can be prone to dominance, seeing themselves as the head of the pack and possibly, being bossy or snappy with you or other members of the family. This should be nipped in the bud early on, as a Jack Russell on the rampage has only slightly less destructive power than a tornado!
It is important to gain your dog’s respect and teach them that you are the pack leader, and that they should look to you for instruction and commands, as without having firm boundaries and a set routine the Jack Russell can soon become unruly.
The Jack Russell might be small, but nobody told them that! Despite their diminutive height, the Jack Russell is nobody’s lapdog, and while they can be highly affectionate and bond very strongly with their owners, their personalities and temperaments are more in line with much larger breeds than they are with most other small dogs.
Jack Russells must be well socialised with other dogs from an early age so that they learn how to play nicely and mix well with others, as they will not hesitate to face up to a dog many times their size if they feel challenged.
Treat the Jack Russell with respect and ensure that you are prepared to handle them to get the best out of them, and you will have a highly loyal friend for life.